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Hypogonadism is a condition in which the function of the gonads is impaired, resulting in reduced production of sex hormones and potentially in a reduction in germ cells as well. This condition is more commonly seen in men, although it can occur in women as well. A number of causes can be associated with hypogonadism, and the treatment usually involves confirming and addressing the cause, if possible, and providing supplemental hormones which will replace the hormones not being produced by the gonads.
Some people have congenital hypogonadism, while in others, it may be acquired, the result of trauma, disease, and other processes. If this condition manifests in childhood, it can interfere with puberty because sex hormones are not being produced at the proper levels. The genitals may also fail to develop properly. In adults, hypogonadism can cause infertility and a variety of other issues.
In primary hypogonadism, the problem lies with the testes or ovaries themselves. In secondary hypogonadism, the problem is caused by a situation somewhere else in the body, such as a malfunction of the pituitary gland which results in reduced hormone production, with less hormones reaching the gonads. When the gonads are not getting enough signals from the pituitary, they can stop functioning or experience a reduction in function.
This condition can be diagnosed with blood tests to check hormone levels. Testosterone in men is the hormone which is used as an indicator, and in women, tests can be done for hormones like follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). People experiencing fertility issues are often given such tests as part of the diagnostic process, to eliminate hypogonadism as a potential cause for fertility problems. This condition can also be diagnosed as part of a larger medical issue such as Klinefelter Syndrome or Turner Syndrome.
Treatment for hypogonadism involves the administration of testosterone to make up for the hormone not being produced by the body. A doctor can use blood tests to decide on the appropriate dosage, and it can take several tries to get the dosage right. Doctors can also explore potential treatments for the cause to see if hypogonadism can be resolved, allowing the body to produce the hormones it needs on its own.
Changes in hormone levels are often viewed as a natural consequence of aging, which means that hypogonadism sometimes goes unaddressed in older patients. A doctor may feel that the issue is not a concern or confuse this condition with normal aging processes. Older patients may want to consider consulting a gerontologist or an endocrinologist who focuses on working with older patients to get the appropriate diagnosis and treatment.